Chicken Pickin' BrentMason_400

Published on March 24th, 2014 | by Sam


Chicken Pickin’ Voice Leading

Chicken pickin’ licks without any direction are…pretty boring.  Things don’t go anywhere and it ends up sounding like you’re just playing ‘a bunch of licks.’  The keys to going from a bunch of licks to playing a meaningful solo are context and voice leading.   If you haven’t checked out my eBook, Blues Language, it’s worth checking out just for the idea of context!  It will change your playing forever.  My next book, on chicken pickin’ is out now on in the store and on Amazon.

We’ll look more at voice leading in this lesson.  Voice leading in this context is playing melodic lines that lead the ear from one chord to another.  Note: in classical music voice leading refers to the inner movements between chords- this is more like voice leading in jazz improvisation.  The key to voice leading is resolving a line to a chord tone in the next chord, on purpose.

Brent Mason is a master at chicken pickin’ voice leading. Let’s check out his fills from the verses of Alan Jackson’s tune, “The Love Factor’s High.”  This tune is in the key of E and uses really only the I IV and V (E, A, B) chords.  So the chord movements are all I to IV, I to V, or IV to I.  The licks are all very easy to play, but super-effective.  Adding this idea into your playing will make your chicken pickin’ playing sound very authentic – just in this one step!

Chicken Pickin’ Voice Leading Lick 1

We’ll start with a lick that leads from I to IV, or from E to A.  It’s simply moving from the root of the I chord (E) to a small bend on the B note, resolving to A – the root of IV.  The B is sort of a pivot tone – it’s the 5th of the I chord, and the 2nd of the IV chord.

Chicken Pickin Voice Leading

Chicken Pickin’ Voice Leading Lick 2

The second chicken pickin’ voice leading lick we will look at is over the same movement: I to IV.  This time Mason outlines the I chord by sliding into the third and jumping up to the root (a very small chicken pickin’ device itself!).  Then he uses that same small bend on B to get into the A chord.

Chicken Pickin Voice Leading

Chicken Pickin’ Voice Leading Lick 3

When going back to I from IV, Brent uses the same trick – a small bend on the 2nd degree of the scale leading into the root.  This time we’re going from A to E.

Chicken Pickin Voice Leading

Chicken Pickin’ Voice Leading Lick 4

Finally we’re going to check out how Brent gets from I to V.  This lick simply moves up the arpeggio, and finally uses chromatic notes to lead into the root of the V chord (B).  Chromatic notes really help the voice leading process.  They naturally move the ear from chord to chord.

Chicken Pickin Voice Leading

So there it is, several simple ways to voice lead from chord to chord.  The next step is to take these principles and use them to help you create lines on different string sets.

Make sure to stay tuned and sign up for my newsletter to get the latest on my Chicken Pickin – Vocabulary, my new eBook coming out very soon.  You can get $4 off the book JUST by going to and signing up there!


Do you want to see more on voice leading? Let me know in the COMMENTS below if you would like to see another lesson using these concepts on higher strings.

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